DOE to Award Up to $27M in Phase III Small Business Awards; Algae Processing, Fuel Cells, Improved Materials for Motors, Synthetic Fuels Among Areas of Interest

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has issued a wide-ranging Funding Opportunity Announcement (DE-FOA-0000397) for up to a total of $27 million in Phase III small business awards in the areas of energy efficiency and renewable energy, electricity delivery and energy reliability, fossil energy, and nuclear energy. The award ceiling amount is $3 million; DOE anticipates making 30 awards.

The purpose of this Phase III program is for the grantee to pursue commercial applications of work that derives from, extends, or logically concludes effort(s) performed under prior (Phase I/II) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) or Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) funding agreements.

Technology areas of interest by program include:

Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

  • Harvesting/Dewatering Technology for Algal Biofuels Production. The Office of Biomass Program (OBP) is seeking Phase III applications to further commercial development of harvesting/dewatering processes—contingent upon successful completion of SBIR Phase I or Phase II development—to support the production of algal biofuels. Specifically, low cost and energy-efficient processes are sought that can be demonstrated and validated under field conditions to meet needs of the nascent algal biomass industry.

    Algae cultures tend to be relatively dilute, and the energy requirement to remove water from the cultures can be a significant portion of the energy balance. Additionally, few of current harvesting and dewatering technologies available today are amenable to scaling for larger production scenarios of 1,000 acre or larger algal farms. Several downstream technologies are being considered for the conversion of either whole (wet) algal biomass, or extracted fuel intermediates; it is understood that the harvesting/dewatering technology specifications must take downstream processing into consideration, yet remain flexible to the algae species being cultivated and the cultivation conditions (e.g. saline water).

    The successful application should seek to develop the prototype process in tandem with technology providers for both upstream and downstream operations, and do so at a sufficient scale (no less than 300,000 US gallons/ 1,100 kiloliters of algae culture processed per day). Furthermore, the energy intensity of the successful harvesting/dewatering process should not exceed 10% of the energy content of the algal biomass being processed to ensure economic sustainability and commercial adoption.

  • Advanced Materials for Fuel Cell Technologies. The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Fuel Cell Technologies Program is seeking Phase III applications to further develop new materials for use in fuel cells and fuel cell stacks, with a primary focus on increased durability at enhanced performance. The materials must resist degradation by exposure to sub-freezing conditions, promote the rapid startup of the fuel cell system from cold ambient conditions to its normal operating conditions, and help to improve the fuel cell’s performance during the start up and warm up periods.

    One particular area of interest is the development of membrane electrolytes and/or membrane electrode assemblies (MEAs) that are intrinsically tolerant of repeated freeze/thaw conditions, while maintaining high performance and durability under wide temperature range and relative humidity (RH) conditions.

  • Bio-Fueled Solid Oxide Fuel Cells. Fuels derived from biomass, when integrated with state-of-the-art solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) technology, provide a substantial opportunity to reduce the burden on the current electrical distribution system, through greater availability of localized power generation, and to reduce the growth in the demand for natural gas, as well as enhance grid stability.

    Phase III applications are sought, to further develop and specifically demonstrate a promising system concept for bio-fueled SOFCs in distributed generation applications, with potential commercial viability. The system should include a fuel processor that reforms a biomass-derived product or bio-fuel into a fuel for a 1-30 kW-scale distributed SOFC system. An emphasis on bio-fuels, which are suitable for an SOFC and derived from sources (such as cellulosic biomass, agricultural residues, or municipal solid waste) that do not compete with food supply, is required.

  • Technologies to Address Internal Heating in DC Bus Capacitors Capacitors suitable for harsh automotive environments must suffer extreme environmental conditions. Film capacitors present an option for use as high voltage bus capacitors. However, they must accommodate high ripple currents, in a high temperature environment. There is a need for higher density lower resistivity foils to allow more ripple current capability with less heating. Applications are sought that use new materials and designs that allow better heat transfer out of the capacitor to reduce internal heating problems and increase life expectancy.

  • Improved Magnetic Materials for Motors. High-temperature, high-strength, lower-cost permanent magnets (PMs) are needed for traction motors for HEVs and PHEVs. The trend for higher-temperature electric machines requires higher-temperature PMs. The strength of the current NeFeB PMs is weakened significantly as temperature rises. Grant applications are sought to develop new magnetic materials to allow low cost, easily manufacturable permanent magnets with energy products comparable to what is commercially available today with sintered magnets at temperatures up to 240°C.

    Grant applications are sought to produce stator and rotor core as well as magnet material with increased resistivity to improve electric motor efficiency by reducing eddy currents and to reduce fabrication costs, even for complex shapes. Grant applications are sought to economically produce core material and magnet material with high resistivity that would improve motor efficiency and reduce fabrication costs.

  • Advanced Materials for Lightweight Vehicles Lightweight materials in automobile structures can provide significant fuel savings, but they also must be able to withstand or absorb the energy of impact in order to protect occupants in collisions. Grant applications are sought to develop rapid processing technologies for carbon fiber reinforced polymers that can be used in primary and secondary structures of passenger vehicles. Grant applications must show that the concept(s) can be cost-effectively incorporated into the high-rate, high volume manufacturing of commercial passenger vehicles.

  • Buildings Technologies. Areas of interest here include Transitional Technology for Organic Light Emitting Diodes (OLEDs); SSL Products made from Organic Light Emitting Diodes (OLEDs); and “Core” Technology for Organic Light Emitting Diodes (OLEDs).

  • Geothermal Technologies. Of interest are: High Temperature Downhole Tools; High-Temperature-High-Volume Lifting; and High Temperature Downhole MWD Tools for Directional Drilling.

  • Industrial Technology. DOE is seeking projects in the areas of Sensors and Controls; Industrial Membrane Process Systems; Advanced Materials; Integrated Reaction-Separation Using Non-Thermal Processes; and Mitigation of Heat Losses, Fouling, and Scaling in Key Manufacturing Unit Operations.

  • Solar Technologies. Here DOE is seeking projects in Lightweight, Flexible and Low Cost Multi-junction Solar Cells; Static Module PV Concentrators; and New Methods of Crystallizing Silicon.

  • Wind Technologies. The Wind and Water Power Program is seeking Phase III proposals that will enhance the commercialization potential of utility-scale technologies that significantly decrease the cost of energy and/or improve the reliability of wind power systems. Cost of energy reductions may involve decreasing capital costs, decreasing operations and maintenance costs (O&M), or improving the overall energy capture of a wind power system.

Office of Fossil Energy

The Office of Fossil Energy (FE) supports R&D to help ensure that new technologies and methodologies will be in place to promote the efficient and environmentally acceptable use of fossil fuel resources. FE seeks to advance successful Phase I or Phase II SBIR projects from their current stage of technical development to commercial readiness in the following program areas:

  1. pollution control innovations for existing power plants (including post-combustion CO2 capture, compression, and beneficial uses, oxy-combustion technology as well as water management);
  2. advanced power systems (including gas separation membranes, gas cleanup, improved gasification technologies, advanced combustion systems, and improved turbines for future coal-based combined cycle plants;
  3. development of stationary power fuel cells;
  4. clean fuels (including hydrogen, synthetic natural gas, and solid and liquid fuels from coal as well as mixed biomass and coal feed stocks);
  5. carbon sequestration;
  6. methods for improved recovery of oil, natural gas, and methane hydrates; and
  7. developments in advanced research including materials, sensors, monitors, controls, biotechnology, computational processes that will be needed for these technologies to be commercially competitive.

Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability

The Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability is seeking projects in the areas of Smart Grid Technologies and Systems; Electric Transmission Technologies; Superconducting Technology for Power Equipment; and Advanced Materials for Power Electronics and Energy Storage.

Office of Nuclear Energy

Improvements and advances are needed for nuclear power reactor instrumentation and control systems and sensor component technologies that can withstand the extreme environments in current reactors and future Generation IV nuclear power plants. Grant applications are sought:

  1. to improve and optimize the performance of the nuclear power systems using wireless on-line continuous monitoring systems that can be readily integrated with reactor instrumentation and control technology in order to improve the reliability and accuracy of plant instrumentation, thermocouples, sensors, and controls that measure key reactor safety and plant operating parameters; and

  2. for robust, radiation-resistant instrumentation, sensors, and controls for Generation IV designs, including the very high temperature gas-cooled reactor (Next Generation Nuclear Plant) that can withstand temperatures in excess of 1400 °C and extreme very high irradiation environments (> 1014 n/cm2sec neutron flux levels) that will exist in current operating reactors and Generation IV high temperature gas-cooled reactor cores.

    Grant applications that propose to use the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) Advanced Test Reactor (ATR) National Scientific User Facility for demonstrating the performance of these extreme-condition instrumentation, sensors, or thermocouples are particularly sought for demonstration testing in the INL ATR.

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